Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

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The image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is an icon, painted on wood, and seems to have originated around the thirteenth century.  Traditionally, the image is also known as “Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.”  The icon (about 54 x 41.5 centimeters) depicts our Blessed Mother Mary, under the title “Mother of God,” holding the Child Jesus.  The Archangels Michael and Gabriel, hovering in the upper corners, hold the instruments of the Passion– St Michael (in the left corner) holds the spear, the wine-soaked sponge, and the crown of thorns, and Saint Gabriel (in the right corner) holds the cross and the nails.  The intent of the artist was to portray the Child Jesus contemplating the vision of His future Passion.  The anguish He feels is shown by the loss of one of His sandals.  Nevertheless, the icon also conveys the triumph of Christ over sin and death, symbolized by the golden background (a sign of the glory of the resurrection) and the manner in which the angels hold the instruments, i.e. like trophies gathered up from Calvary on Easter morning.

In a very beautiful way, the Child Jesus grasps the hand of the Blessed Mother.  He seeks comfort from His mother, as He sees the instruments of His passion.  The position of Mary’s hands – both holding the Child Jesus (who seems like a small adult) and presenting Him to us – convey the reality of our Lord’s incarnation, that He is true God who became also true man.  In iconography, Mary here is represented as the Hodighitria, the one who guides us to the Redeemer.  She also is our Help, who intercedes on our behalf with her Son.  The star painted on Mary’s veil, centered on her forehead, highlights her role in the plan of salvation as both the Mother of God and our Mother.

According to popular tradition, a merchant acquired the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from the island of Crete and had it shipped to Rome towards the end of the fifteenth century.  During the voyage, a terrible storm arose, threatening the lives of all on ship.  The passengers and crew prayed to our Blessed Mother, and were saved.

Once in Rome, the merchant, dying, ordered that the image should be displayed for public veneration.  His friend, who retained the image, received further instructions: in a dream to his little daughter, the Blessed Mother appeared and expressed the desire for the image to be venerated in a Church between the Basilicas of Saint Mary Major and Saint John Lateran in Rome.  The image, consequently, was housed at the Church of Saint Matthew, and became known as “The Madonna of Saint Matthew.”  Pilgrims flocked to the church for the next three hundred years, and great graces were bestowed upon the faithful.

After Napoleon’s troops destroyed the Church of Saint Matthew in 1812, the image was transferred to the Church of Saint Mary in Posterula, and remained there for nearly forty years.  There, the image was neglected and forgotten.

By divine providence, the forgotten image was rediscovered.  In 1866, Blessed Pope Pius IX entrusted the image to the Redemptorists, who had just built the Church of Saint Alphonsus, down the street from Saint Mary Major.  As a boy, the Holy Father had prayed before the image in the Church of Saint Matthew.  He ordered the public display and veneration of the image, and fixed the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the Sunday before the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.  In 1867, when the image was being carried in a solemn procession through the streets, a young child was cured, the first of many recorded miracles attributed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

To this day, the Church of Saint Alphonsus displays the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and welcome pilgrims for prayer.  May each of us never hesitate to invoke the prayers and intercession of Our Blessed Mother in time of need. (source)

 

On a personal note, could I please ask you, dear readers, to say a prayer for the repose of the soul of my beloved mother, Lucia Maria, and all the intentions close to her heart. After a life marked by suffering she went to the Lord exactly two years ago, on this beautiful feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

 

Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Mother of Perpetual Help, Woman of Eternal Hope, your wordless gaze tells us so much about you. Knowing eyes look upon us with tender love. The slight bend of your head reveals such maternal concern. While your left hand supports the Child, your right hand is ready to receive us, too. Just as He feels the beating of your heart, so you encourage us to lead a life of hope and holiness. Just as His sandal will fall on your lap, through your intercession may God pick us up as we stumble and fall. Never let us be parted from you and your son, Jesus. Lady of love, you invite us to place our hand where His fingers touch yours — near a heart of endless hope — so that we may be united often in prayer here on earth and joined forever with you in heaven. Amen.

 

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3 Responses to Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

  1. Tim McGee says:

    Prayers offered for Maria Lucia. Amen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mmvc says:

    Thank you Tim. God bless you and yours!

    Like

  3. Florence Da-silva says:

    Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Pray for us all that invoke your maternal intercession and hear our prayers

    Like

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